Times Thursday, May 11, 2000
By CAITLIN LIU, Times Staff Writer
A jury ruled in favor of a
longtime Los Angeles science fiction and horror movie memorabilia
collector, declaring Wednesday that the name "Dr. Acula" belongs
to Forrest J Ackerman and not to his former business associate. In
addition to trademark infringement, the Van Nuys jury also found
Ackerman's former business associate, Ray Ferry, liable for breach of
contract, libel and misrepresentation. Ackerman was awarded $382,500 in
compensatory and $342,000 in punitive damages.
"Vindication! Vindication! Dr. Acula lives!" cried a jubilant
Ackerman. He lives in a memorabilia-filled mansion in Los Feliz that has
become an informal mecca for fans of science fiction and horror.
"I don't feel 83 anymore," Ackerman said. "I only feel 80
years old now." Jurors said they were impressed by such celebrities
as movie director John Landis and author Ray Bradbury, who testified on
"I wasn't star-struck," said juror Teresa Cassidy, a 51-year-old
telephone operator from Valley Village. "We had to go by the
Ackerman is a former editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine who
had a falling-out with Ferry, the current publisher. He said he coined the
"Dr. Acula" name in 1939 and was forced to sue after Ferry began
using it without his permission. He also alleged that Ferry, with whom he
collaborated to stage science fiction conventions, refused to share
profits as agreed and induced him to sign a contract when he was ill that
would allow Ferry to buy millions of dollars worth of his assets for $1.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Petersen rescinded
that contract. The jury threw out a countersuit that Ferry, 48, filed
"It was pretty clear to us who Dr. Acula was," said juror Vince
Telles, a 36-year-old accountant from Granada Hills. In fact, after jurors
decided that Ackerman owned the trademark--the first issue they
deliberated--they began referring to Ackerman as "Dr. Acula,"
they said. Last week, Bradbury testified that he had teased Ackerman, his
former literary agent who published his first short story in the late
1930s, about his "Dr. Acula" nickname for more than 60 years.
Ferry and his lawyer, Thomas Brackey II, said they would appeal.
"Mr. Ackerman's case was based entirely on sympathy," Ferry
said. "On appeals it's going to get ugly."
Jurors said they felt Ackerman seemed like a nice, honest person.